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Official Opening of the New 2015/ 2016 Academic University Year at Sofia University

At the beginning of the solemn ceremony the Rector Professor Dr. Ivan Ilchev and the members of the Academic Council laid flowers at the statues of Evlogy and Hristo Georgiev. At the Aula Magna of Sofia University were present Professor Todor Tanev, Minister of Education and Science, Professor Nikolay Denkov, Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Mrs Yordanka Fandukova, Mayoress of the City of Sofia, Krasimir Velchev and Borislav Velikov, MPs, Ms. Roumyana Kolarova, Secretary for education, science and civil society at the Presidency of the Republic of Bulgaria, rectors of high academic institutions, ambassadors, faculty and students.

At the beginning of the solemn ceremony the Rector Professor Dr. Ivan Ilchev and the members of the Academic Council laid flowers at the statues of Evlogy and Hristo Georgiev. At the Aula Magna of Sofia University were present Professor Todor Tanev, Minister of Education and Science, Professor Nikolay Denkov, Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Mrs Yordanka Fandukova, Mayoress of the City of Sofia, Krasimir Velchev and Borislav Velikov, MPs, Ms. Roumyana Kolarova, Secretary for education, science and civil society at the Presidency of the Republic of Bulgaria, rectors of high academic institutions, ambassadors, faculty and students.

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“You will get excellent preparation because your professors are among the best scientists in this country and their teaching is based on their own research achievements. Sofia University is the scientific institution that has reached the highest scientific level in this country; it is the founder of the Association of Research Universities and some members of its faculty have been awarded the Pythagoras Prize for science. Many of them have taught not only in this country but abroad, too, and are well familiar with the international yardsticks of university education. Do make the best use of their knowledge,” Professor Ilchev added. He also stressed the fact that all those successes had been achieved with very meager state funding. By way of comparison the Rector adduced an example of the financial support that two British and two US universities of equal standing in the international ratings with Sofia University get from their respective governments.

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Professor Ilchev said that despite the financial constraints during the past few years the governing body of the University does its best to improve the study and research conditions. With the assistance of predominantly European-based scientific projects and donations redecoration work has been done of many lecture theaters, including the biggest and emblematic Lecture Theater 272, many laboratories and libraries. The Rector drew the attention of the audience to the newly open Confucius Model Institute at Sofia University, which is the biggest one in Europe. Professor Ilchev added, however, that regretfully so, the sports facilities of the University are not on a sufficiently high level yet.

“At the University we’ll do our best to make you firmly believe that it is of utmost importance to get the best preparation in the domain you have chosen but it is also essential that you manage to acquire a flexible mode of thinking so that you will not find it difficult to move to a new domain and, thus, remain competitive on the labor market. We live in such times that no one can give you a safe warrant for your future,” Professor Ilchev pointed out. The Rector remarked that a year ago, on the initiative of the student body the working hours of the University Library, the second biggest national library in this country that stocks about three million library items and the only Bulgarian library that gets no funding from the Government whatsoever, was extended till 11 p.m. The results of this experiment are more than remarkable: during the first year the library was visited by more than 12 000 readers during the late hours, that is 12 000 young people who want to know more and do their utmost to do so.

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“Dear young colleagues, from now on that is how we’ll turn to you. This means that the university community is united, with its own shared interests and objectives, and that it respects your aspirations to compete with your professors. This code of behavior, however, is also an obligation. There are not only rights and privileges that go with it; it also involves responsibility. It gives you the right not only to claim but also to defend your Alma mater and be worthy of it,” Professor Ilchev pointed out. He urged the students to enjoy their stay at the University as best as they could. The Rector also specifically mentioned the opportunities the University and its structures offer: the Cultural Center, the University Theater, the University Radio and TV. He also stressed that Sofia University is a venue where more events take place than in all the other universities in Sofia taken together.

In Professor Ilchev’s words the young people should not miss their chance of getting to know the world and the European universities that the student mobility programs offer. It is through them that students can become familiar with the ways of teaching at other universities, get in touch with other cultures and improve their foreign language skills. The Rector pointed to the fact that 10% of the Bulgarian students study at Sofia University and the latter administers approximately 30% of the Erasmus student mobility program.

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Professor Ivan Ilchev dwelt on the issue of the amendments to the current High Education Act that were offered; the latter will contribute to the improvement of the process of financing the best high academic institutions, halt the unnecessary waste of the limited financial resources invested in high academic education, and stimulate the raising of its quality. The Rector appealed to Professor Tanev, the Minister of Education and Science, who was guest of the event, to do his utmost so that the ranking of universities in this country be done on the basis of sound and steady criteria, following the world standards in that respect and based on objective evidence coming from data bases. Thus, it should not blindly follow the evaluation results of the National Evaluation and Accreditation Agency which, despite the good intentions of the colleagues, are not always fair and also reflect personal biases and impressions, as well as the competition among the high schools.

The Rector expressed his hope that at the time when today’s first year students complete their Bachelor’s degree Bulgaria would no longer be in the bottom position among the EU countries in terms of the share of the national budget earmarked for high university education. “Because it is clear to all of us that in our unstable and exposed to ever so many dangers world, what guarantees the security of a state such as ours are first and foremost its young and highly educated citizens.”

Professor Ivan Ilchev welcomed the parents and the relatives of the students and also wished fruitful and rewarding work to the members of faculty. The Rector concluded his speech with the following words: “After many years when you will be asked which university you graduated and you answer “The University,” no one will ask you anymore questions because for us, the Bulgarians, the University, the University writ large is Sofia University,” and the new 2015/ 2016 new university academic year was officially opened.

 

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In his speech of welcome Professor Todor Tanev, Minister of Education and Science, expressed his deep respect to the University where he had spent many fruitful years. He drew attention to the fact that recently education and science had often been denigrated in this country.

Professor Tanev spoke about his intentions of introducing amendments to the High Education Act and also amendments to the Development of Faculty Act. The Minister also recalled the names of some university luminaries whose spirit will always be in our midst and stated: “This University will always stay alive!”

At the end of his address Professor Tanev appealed specifically to the first year students, who are already full-fledged members of the academic community of Alma mater, to raise high the roof beam of the University throughout their lives.

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Mr. Vasil Silyanovsky, President of the Student Council, welcomed the guests, the faculty and the students present in the Aula Magna. In his short address he spoke about his personal choice to pursue his university education in this country. “What makes this University special are the people you will meet, the professors with whom you will study and the experiences you will live through. Because it is a real fact that Sofia University is the vibrant soul of this country and its alumni have always been the moral corrective of our society.”

The President of the Student Council appealed to his colleagues to pursue the cause of knowledge, the call of their hearts and embody the change they would like to see in this country.

During the ceremony the first year students, winners at national and international competitions, received their student grade books from the Rector of Sofia University.

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